Music Notes; #1 and #2

Music Notes #1 – Sorry Paul.

This past summer, in an interview promoting his new solo album, Keith Richards slagged the Beatles. He referred to Sgt. Pepper as “rubbish” and stated that – “there’s not a lot of roots in that music.” I think my jaw dropped. It seemed somehow sacrilegious.

It was in response to the interviewer’s point that, in the past 20 years, he has played more Stones than Beatles music.

I have too.

In my car I have satellite radio. I play harmony roulette, (12 pre-set stations, I have to sing with one of them). This provides an incredible variety of music, from Classic Rock, to Underground Garage, to a station that plays only acoustic covers of songs and another deep cuts from classic albums. Of course, E Street Radio plays only Bruce – but it also has other people covering Bruce, and Bruce covering other people. (he sings Royals by Lorde lately – stripped down, fabulous)

The other time I play a concentrated set of music is when I hike for an hour every day with my iPod.

Here’s the thing. 9/10 times when a Beatles song comes on I switch it to something else. I’m sorry. I do it fast because I feel so incredible guilty. The Beatles are important to me in a way that ties back into my childhood like no other band or singer. My sister got a new Beatles album every Christmas for many years. We’d wait at the record store for the new CHUM chart every week – all about the Beatles songs. They used to do a double play and play them twice! It’s how we learned to harmonize.

But now when I want music, their saccharine sweetness, their almost impossible buoyancy, doesn’t thrill me. Now to be fair, the only exceptions are the later, solo John Lennon works. Other than that, no Beatles song from the ‘60s works for me now the way so many many Stones songs still do.

I think Keith’s point about roots is valid. He claims there really is nothing new in rock and roll – even hip hop and ad jingles – it all come from the Blues. And when Jumpin’ Jack Flash or Sympathy for the Devil come on, I don’t turn away, I turn it up loud.

Music Notes #2 – Inside the Music Store

I love music stores. The sounds, the sights, the people softly playing instruments, or occasionally someone really letting loose. The guys who work there are all passionate about music, and the instruments they sell. I was getting lots of assistance with an electronic piano rental, and purchasing extra guitar strings for Music Night when the young man asked me what kind of music I played.

“I’m a back-up singer in a Bruce Springsteen cover band”. I replied.

“Hey! My uncle played an amazing Clarence Clemon’s style sax. You guys should get together.”

Okay so none of that second part actually happened. But wouldn’t that have been cool?

The Wake Up Call

The 100 Word Challenge this week is “The alarm went off at 6:00 a.m. as usual”


The Wake Up Call

I didn’t start to worry until well after midnight. No calls – “I didn’t want to wake you”- would be the excuse. Tomorrow the kids would start school and everything would be back to normal. Surely many couples have a hard time through the summer – far too much time spent together.

Later, tired of pacing, of looking out the window with every car light that passed, I fell asleep.

The alarm went off at 6:00 a.m. as usual. I felt the empty side of the bed and realized that, for me, the alarm should have gone off long ago.

100 Word Challenge Week #166: “checking in proved to be”

100wcgu-71   The prompt this week”  “checking in proved to be”.  Here goes:


When their son graduated from high school, he was allowed to choose any destination worldwide for a family vacation.  Jared chose Dubai and his mother made extensive travel plans for their adventure.

After a long and exhausting flight, they arrived at their hotel and Janice approached the front desk.  “Good morning,  we’re the Lee family, checking in.”

The desk clerk, looked Janice up and down, turned to her husband and asked; “Do you allow your woman speak for you?”.  Hmmm.  Checking in proved to be only the first indicator of what would certainly be an enlightening experience for them all.

The Gift

Dear Lindy~ I thought of your Mom yesterday. A song came on the radio.

You know that many years ago, she was a business mentor to me. I was in my early 20’s and she was the senior financial person in the agency where I worked. But more than that, she was the senior woman in the organization. She had clout. She made things happen.

I was lucky that she liked me. She was a huge help to me. We went together one evening to an Agency party on the Centre Island. Walking from the Ferry I started to hum a Springsteen song. That was the first time your Mom heard me sing. She made me start at the beginning. And sing louder. I was really embarrassed and didn’t want to. She was a hard person to say “no” too. I bet you’ve heard that before! Sort of a fist in a velvet glove. I sang. It didn’t sound half bad.

She invited me to  come to your house in the Beach. Your Dad would play the guitar and I would sing. The song that I heard on the radio yesterday that reminded me of her was “Daniel” by Elton John. That was the first song that I ever sang with him playing the guitar. It was scary and thrilling. microphone_on_stage_a3d71 After that, she would make me sing all the time. Even after we had both moved on to other jobs, she would call me from work and get me to sing to her. More than once, it was on the speaker phone and she had others there. She loved opera and there was a part of an opera that I had stuck in my head. I called her and sang it to her (in the middle of a meeting!) and she was able to identify it. So cool.

It was many years later that I got a call from Inez that your Mom was sick. Real sick. She was in Sunnybrook and had asked for me to come down and sing some Springsteen to her. Inez and I met up the next day and we visited your Mom. By then, she was hardly conscious. I sat by her bed and sang. I came back down 3 or 4 more times to sing to her. Who knows if she was able to hear me by then. Maybe if she couldn’t hear the words she could feel the feelings behind them. At first I was so shy to sing, but each time I became braver. The nurses would step in, and people visiting, to listen and I wouldn’t stop.

The last time I came down, I was walking down the hall towards her room and your Dad was being wheeled by on a stretcher. He was screaming. As he passed me, he grabbed my hand and screamed at me; ‘Leslie! Stay with Bonnie. Please! Stay with Bonnie!”. He was panic struck. I said I would, and walked into your Mom’s room. Your Aunt Sue was with your Mom and it took me a moment to realize that she was gone.

After I said goodbye to her, I went and found your Dad downstairs where they were trying to calm him down. No matter how clear it had been that she wasn’t going to make it, the shock of her actual death was almost too much for him to bear. He loved her so.

Your Grandmother asked me to sing at the funeral. I spent hours learning the song that they had chosen – “How Great Thou Art”. The day before the funeral, I woke up with almost total laryngitis. I was so disappointed and felt like I was letting her down. When I called your Grandmother and croaked out that I couldn’t talk (much less sing) she asked if there was anything that she could do to help me. This, on the weekend that she was burying her daughter. Such kindness.

My voice came back after several days and I began to sing more often. I had sung as a child, in a school choir that actually made a Christmas album, and with the women in my family around the piano. We could all sing. We sang in the car for hours on long road trips. Somehow, when I got to high school my voice was silenced. It wasn’t that I was shy – on the contrary I was loud and a smart ass. Yet the idea of singing in front of people, either in the choir, in the musicals or even in casual settings seemed impossible. Years later, your Mom unlocked that part of me.

Now I sing every day. I take music lessons with a wonderful teacher to learn different harmonies and play a new instrument. I have sung at many weddings, and at many funerals. My own choir has done more than 100 shows at old folks homes, and I walk the halls of the hospital with a couple of other singers whenever we can. IMG_4526 My husband, son and daughter play the guitar and we all sing, as a family and with friends who come over with their guitars or to play the piano. It is truly one of the real joys in my life and your Mom gave me that.

What Faithful Knew

On paper, it probably didn’t look like a good idea. A home and family in a bit of an uproar, lots going on. He was the the fourth of five and the youngest son. He was animal crazy just like me and we have been friends for 50 years. My parents used to take us out sometimes on a Sunday, we would drive out to the country to go and see horses. For his birthday, Dan’s oldest brother and sister got him a dog. They went to the pound and picked out a young dog. Now, according to dog lore, they did everything wrong. This dog was cowering in the corner. He didn’t respond when they called him over. But whether it was something in his eyes, or they were just dead fluke lucky, he was the right dog. When Dan met this dog that was it. He named him Faithful. While he was a very friendly dog who loved pretty much everybody, his very soul burned out his eyes when he looked at Dan. You see, Faithful knew. Faithful and Dan Now Dan was a smart kid and a natural with the dog. He trained this pup up to the point where he could take him anywhere. The tradeoff for that of course is the same as it is for children – they get to go more places and people are always glad to see them. My parents didn’t even like dogs and they loved Faithful. Everyone did. He responded to hand motions, and sang on cue – he was perfect company. Many, many years later my daughter Katt did an Independent Study Project on the local SPCA and began working on my husband in earnest to adopt a rescue dog. She was pretty determined and as my husband is powerless against her he agreed. We already had two grown dogs so determined that a younger dog would be a better fit. Talk about a pig in a poke. She picked this dog out via a thumbnail sketch from a Rescue site on the internet. He was was brought to Toronto in the back of a van with a dozen other rescue dogs from Alma in northern Quebec – where he had been tossed in a cardboard box with 3 brothers outside an animal shelter in the dead of winter. When he arrived, it was clear he was older than we had expected. He was coloured like a German Shepherd but his personality was all Lab. He was all about the food and the love. And he loved Katt. She was it for him – though he loves us all when she isn’t around. She named him Chase. He is exactly like the dog in the movie “Up” who can speak. “Squirrel!” He passed his obedience school lessons on the first night. He gets to go canoeing in Algonquin Park and attend classes with her at University. IMG_2679 Chase reminded me of Faithful right away. It wasn’t just his calm demeanor, or his intelligence. It’s that – somehow – he knows what Faithful knew. He knows that things could have been so much worse for him. That there was a life of abuse or neglect that could have been his. That it was just a toss of the dice that he ended up here – with owners that adore him in his forever home and will care for him for the rest of his life.

Mothers and Daughters

In grade school I had a long walk to school. At least it seemed long. I crossed Lawrence Avenue which was quite a busy street and didn’t get crossing lights until I was much older. But I was able to come home for lunch which was a treat for me. My mother was creative and I would often have interesting shapes or combinations of food, plus gourmet treats (look in the freezer – it’s Peach Melba!)

I walked to and from school with my best friend Mary Curcio. We would play Bewitched, or Lost in Space and I would carry a story line over many days.

In October when I was in grade two, my Mom mentioned at lunch that she was heading up towards my school, did Mary and I want to get a ride back with her? I said “Sure” and went to get Mary. My Mom said she had to leave right away, so if we didn’t get back in five minutes she would have to go without us. I know that she said this, but I didn’t really hear it.

Mary was not a quick kind of girl. She was very thoughtful and never ever hurried. When I tried to impress upon her to hurry up so we could get a ride, it didn’t seem to make any difference. I kept looking out to the door and 10 minutes later saw what I feared – my mother driving up the street without me.

I ran outside and up the sidewalk, screaming and waving my arms. I didn’t understand the total panic that I was feeling – but if was very real. When my Mom stopped the car, I almost laughed at myself for my overreaction, but she was actually just stopped at the stop sign at the top of the street. She started going again. I was about 4 houses back and downhill. She didn’t see me.

The desperation I felt as I ran screaming after her bumper was almost overwhelming. And I don’t know why. I had just had lunch with her, and would see her after school in a few hours. I had time to get to school on my own, as I did every other day. Yet…I was sobbing and couldn’t stop.

I had the same feeling for the first time in a very long time just last week. After not seeing my daughter for nearly four months, I had flown to the Yukon Territory to meet her in Whitehorse. After a long journey, we finally arrived to check into one of the top hotels. Can you picture a top hotel in Whitehorse Yukon? I bet you can.

10:30 pm in Downtown Whitehorse, Yukon

10:30 pm in Downtown Whitehorse, Yukon

I reminded the front desk clerk that my daughter would be arriving separately and she was to get her key as soon as the room was ready. She said; “Oh your daughter was here ten minutes ago…you just missed her.”

My body folded exactly as I imagine it would had I been kicked in the stomach. It was the same feeling of desperate loss. I burst into tears. The poor clerk was very concerned – “I’m sure she’ll be back! I told her the room would be ready in a couple of hours.”

I looked at Blaine and he kept very cool. However, he did understand and left immediately to look for her in the car while I watched from the window of my fourth floor room to try and see her on the street.

I don’t think I had never gone so long without seeing one of my kids before. It was exacerbated by the fact that she was so far out in the wilds – two and a half hours north west of Whitehorse, past Lake Lebarge where they cremated Sam McGee!  She had no texting, no email, no phone, and limited access to Facebook only after 11:00 at night. She had a fantastic research position at the Arctic Institute of North America. It seemed she was doing great and have a wonderful summer but I really wanted to get a hold of her and see for myself.

We knew where to look – Starbucks or the book store. Blaine found her in Starbucks. When I saw our rental car coming back down the road, and I could just make out her arm showing through on the passenger side. I bolted out of the room, down four flights of stairs and out on to the street. Where I hugged her. And sobbed. And kept sobbing. I’m crying now just remembering. I am sure that I embarrassed her something fierce. But she didn’t let go.


The Bunkie (a very short story)

On my grandparents island in Haliburton, a perfect path led through the woods to the bunkie.   The light was mottled through a canopy of leaves above, and the ground was soft and quiet – a blanket of pine needles and soft earth over the exposed rocks.


We would sneak down and play in the bunkie when the hot afternoon sun would drive us off the rocks by the water.  My little brothers would get tired and head back to the cottage but I would stay until I was called up for dinner.

I begged to be able to stay there by myself.  Of course, they never let me.  They did agree that it would be the perfect spot for the boys when they were older.  I knew even then that they would ruin it – with their stolen beers and crushed cigarettes.  With their friends who were loud and messy.

The summer I turned 11, my parents went out to the Yacht Club’s big party.  I was mortified that they insisted on getting a babysitter.  Helen was only a few years older than me, and about 4 inches shorter.  She let me stay up and watch t.v. with her after the boys were asleep. Then, Helen was shaking me roughly and hissing into my ear,  “Your parents are home!”

I bolted up the stairs and was in my bed before they came into the cottage.  I made my jaw go slack and slowed my breathing to mimic sleep.  I heard the muffled conversation from downstairs as Helen left – walking home alone down the cottage road with just a flashlight.

A cloud of Shalimar wafted into my room just before my mother did.  She leaned over me,  watching me in the moonlight and shaking her head.  My mother was always beautiful – delicate and perfect.  She never looked lovelier than that night.

“My God how do we keep kidding ourselves?” she said, in a loud stage whisper,  “It’s not a stage she’s going through!”  My father came in to the room and tried to shush her.  “C’mon lovely, let’s call it a night”.

“Look at her.  Just look at her!  You know people can’t even believe that she’s my daughter!  This massive klutz.  This loser.  Pathetic.”  My mother then spun on her heel and careened into my father’s always waiting arms.

That fall I left for boarding school.  I never lived at home again. As I got older, I visited the cottage less and less. There were summer jobs, and studies abroad.  Eventually I married and moved down South.  I haven’t been back in many years. Even now though, these many years later when I smell that certain forest smell I am right back there – skipping along down the path to the bunkie.

Last year, my brother sent me a photo of his lovely little daughter.  She is standing on the porch of the bunkie with my mother twirling her in her little princess dress.  My mother looks very happy.